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Strike: Verdict against Lufthansa

Airline has to pay compensation

A Luxembourgish court decided that Lufthansa has to reimburse passengers who are affected by a strike. According to the judge, the airline can't claim extraordinary circumstances. It is the second ruling of this kind in a short time.

In October 2016, the pilots of the German airline Lufthansa went on strike. This caused the cancellation of a flight of two Luxembourgish consumers to Oslo. They were rebooked to another flight which was then delayed for more than three hours.

Compensation thanks to a European procedure

As Lufthansa didn't follow the request of the two consumers for a reimbursement, they contacted the European Consumer Centre Luxembourg. Unfortunately, no out-of-court solution was reached with the airline. Therefore, the consumers went to court. They were able to enforce their demands by using the European Small Claims Procedure which is free of charge in Luxembourg. In other member states, like Austria, consumers have to pay a small fee (read more). There is no need for a lawyer, the consumers just had to fill out a form.

The Luxembourgish court finally decided that the announced strike by pilots of Lufthansa was no extraordinary circumstance as constituted by the European air passengers rights regulation (verdict n° 2768/2018). Therefore, the airline was obligated to reimburse the two consumers who were affected by the related flight cancellations and delays. The judge based his verdict on a decision by the European Court of Justice (CJEU) from April 2018, ruling that a "wild" strike of some of TUIfly's staff also didn't qualify as extraordinary circumstance.

Long legal debate

According to the air passenger rights regulation of the EU, consumers are entitled to compensation in case of flight cancellations or long delays (find out more). Only exception: Extraordinary circumstances. It is therefore a popular argument of airlines facing strikes, like Ryanair in the current situation.

Whether a strike consitutes an extraordinary circumstance or not was a legal debate for a long time. According to the regulation, extraordinary circumstances are such that "the airline could not have avoided by taking all feasible measures."  This definition gives room to a lot of interpretation. Therefore, every single case needs an individual decision. The two recent decisions got things moving again - in favor of the European consumers.

ECC tips for Ryanair & Co.

The ECC advises consumers who are affected by the current strikes of Ryanair to demand the following in written form:

  • reimbursement of the ticket price for cancelled flights and
  • compensation (depending on the distance of the flight, between 250 and 600 Euro)

You can base your claims on the two verdicts against TUIfly and Lufthansa. The Network of the European Consumer Centres (ECC-Net) provides a free sample letter.

If you don't get any or only a negative reply to your letter, feel free to contact us. Learn more about how to submit your claim here.

ECC Austria thanks its Luxembourgish colleagues for the cooperation on this article as well as the provision of the sample letter!

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